• Alexander Heller

Hurricane Season Begins Amidst a Problematic Pandemic

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

| By Peter Planamente |

When living in New Jersey, or any state along the Eastern Seaboard, the approach of June and the summer season is an exciting time of year. The kids leave school for summer break, beaches and boardwalks come alive and the weather begins to turn warmer. One thing that most people do not look forward to is the start of the hurricane season.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30. If you did not already know, a tropical storm formed before the start of this season, on May 16, and survived three days as a named storm.

The list of names for 2020 includes Arthur (used on May 16), Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.

Tropical storms and hurricanes started being named in the 1950s after confusion from the public when there were multiple storms ongoing. The names are used in a six-year rotation unless retired after being declared a major disaster.

According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a 60% chance that this hurricane season will be above average. An average season produces 12 named storms, 6 of those becoming hurricanes and 3 becoming a major hurricane. For the 2020 season, the Climate Prediction Center predicts 13 to 19 named storms with 6 to 10 storms becoming a hurricane and 3 to 6 becoming major.

When naming a storm, it must reach a certain criterion. Forecasters use the Saffir-Simpson Scale, created by civil engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson in 1971, that has a categorical system from 1 to 5 and measures the wind speeds of tropical storms and hurricanes. A tropical storm has wind between 39 to 73 mph. Hurricanes (category 1 to 2) have wind between 74 to 110 mph. Major hurricanes (category 3 to 5) have wind between 111 to 157 mph or higher.

So why will this hurricane season be another above-average year? NOAA explains that the ENSO, El Nino Southern Oscillation, could remain neutral or turn into a La Nina phase. In more understandable terms, this phase typically does not stop tropical activity from forming in the Atlantic. When we are in an El Nino phase, tropical systems have a harder time developing and gaining strength.

Looking back to past hurricane seasons, a La Nina phase was present during the 2017 season when we had major hurricanes such as Harvey (cat. 4), Irma (cat. 5), Jose (cat. 5) and Maria (cat. 5). Hopefully it would not be a repeat.

It is important to stay aware of the forecast by watching your local news, following trusted sources on social media and visiting The National Hurricane Center website. Also, the early part of the season is when you should prepare yourself and your home for hurricanes. It is important to know if your home can withstand a hurricane or if you need to evacuate. The purchase of a hurricane safety kit is also a crucial tool to have. They can be packed with supplies like water, non-perishable foods, a radio, flashlights and batteries.

The peak of the hurricane season is around September 10.

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